Tuesday, May 8, 2007
50, that's 5-oh, miles!
This Saturday was a turning point in my athletic career (I think...). I ran my first ultramarathon, a 50-mile trail race in the mountains near Buena Vista, CO. It was called the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run (collegiatepeakstrailrun.org) and it was a fantastic day! Mike and I drove in Friday night, went to the prerace meeeting and met some of the other racers. The weather forecast was not in our favor--it was supposed to rain all day and be pretty chilly. But, we woke up Saturday morning to warmer than forecasted temps feeling ready and excited. The race started at 6:30. There were about 200 runners, most of who ran the 25 mile option. The course is 25 miles of mostly double track, with some single track, a couple miles of pavement, and about 3500 feet of elevation gain. The 50 milers do the course twice, once clockwise, the other counter-clockwise. The start and finish are in the same place. I started off pretty slowly, just trying to relax and conserve energy. I was feeling good and got so into the groove that I missed a turn and ran off course for a half mile or so around mile 10. When I figured out what I had done, I was kinda pissed, so I turned around to get back on course and sped up to pass all the runners that had passed me. It took me about 12 miles to do all the catching up, but I did it! It was encouraging to have started off slowly and be able to pass people instead of starting too fast and getting passed.
Though I ran the first half feeling strong and really without pain, I still doubted my ability to complete the second half. Even when the race is 50 miles, 25 miles is still a long way to run. So, by the end of the first 25, I felt like I had just run 25 miles--tired! I was tired, but my stomach felt fine (that is often a problem on long runs), I had no blisters, and had no joint or muscle pain. I had to do some positive self-talk to while approaching the half way point, "You knew you would be tired, you expected this, you have no pain and therefore no excuses not to continue!". When I reached the turnaround (after 5 hours of running) and the 25 milers were finishing, I was beaming, pumped, and totally motivated to go for it again. Mike gave me a little cheer and a fresh protein bar and I was on my way. Because the two laps of the course are run in opposite directions, all of the 50 milers get to pass by the people still on their way to the finish line (or turnaround). That was a really neat experience--encouraging and being encouraged by the other racers. Surprisingly, I continued to feel pretty good through the second half, though I still doubted whether or not I would finish. I think I kept expecting to hit a wall, but I just never hit it. I was able to pass a few people--I would catch them, run and chat with them for a while, then move on to the next person. When I reached 40 miles, I realized I was counting down in single digits and started to believe I would finish. At mile 48, I was greeted by a cold, 20-30mph headwind and 2 long, straight, flat and paved miles. That was torture, but little by little, I moved closer to the end. I crossed the finish line 10 hours and 31 minutes after I started. All at once, I was elated, euphoric, and exhausted. I did it! Now all I want to know is--when is the next one?!